Safety or Freedom? Educational Offer and Students’ Study Paths within the Humanities and Social Sciences at Uppsala University

Ida Lidegran, Uppsala University
Lisa Backman, Uppsala University

There is a growing concern in Sweden that freestanding courses that can be combined to general degrees are threatened and that higher education studies to a too large degree is becoming instrumental and labor market oriented. This study aims to analyze the change in educational offer over time and relate to how students orient themselves in the landscape of higher education. Focus is on the changing patterns of choices of freestanding courses and of programs on both a national level and local level (Uppsala University). The study uses both longitudinal and individual-based statistical data from the Statistics Sweden on all students attending higher education and qualitative data from interviews with 50 students attending either programs or courses in different disciplines within the humanities and social sciences at Uppsala University. The theoretical point of departure is anchored in the sociology developed by Pierre Bourdieu, which means that the different forms and amounts of capital that students possess play an important role in the understanding of how students navigate in the complex educational offer. The results show that the there is a strong hierarchy of educational types, where the students predominantly value programs over courses. It requires higher grades to be admitted to an educational program, which is very important for the prestige. Internships connected to the programs and the beliefs that the labor market recognizes programs as more valuable than courses and general degrees are important motivators for the students’ perception of the value hierarchies of higher education. The students point out that programs are a much more secure and safe choice than courses. These views of the students stand in sharp contrast to the views of the educational leadership at Uppsala University, where courses are associated with academic freedom and a unique way of building your own education.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 223. Education, Discrimination, and Social Stratification II